Santa Rosa motel opens doors to 104 homeless

An old motel in Santa Rosa is about to be converted into housing for 104 homeless people.  Sixty of the new residents will be veterans.

"Now I know i can sleep at night. What a difference," said U.S. Army veteran Rodney Hill. Hill is the first person to move in to what used to be the Palms Inn on Santa Rosa Avenue on the outskirts of town.

Each of the 104 rooms will be occupied by someone currently living on the streets. In what were once offices and banquet rooms, the Palms will be holding counseling, job training and other services, all operated by Catholic Charities.

Catholic Charities will also be putting on workshops on personal finance and cooking, life skills that sometimes get forgotten by people who have been living on the streets for many years.

The Palms has been in Akash Kalia's family for 13 years. He approached catholic charities more than a year ago about turning the operation of the motel into a housing.

He is donating the beds, furniture and televisions.

"Instead of 104 rooms for tourists we're able to have 104 people never have to wonder where they will spend the night again," said Kalia.

Residents will pay about a third of their income in rent.The rest is subsidized through a variety of grants and donations.

An estimated two-thousand people live on Santa Rosa's streets. Getting a hundred of them into hotel rooms is a start.

"It's a drop in the bucket right now. But it is an important step," said Jennilynn Holmes of Catholic Charities.   

Rodney hill says he can't afford the skyrocketing Sonoma county rents. He's ready to have a decent place of his own.

"What's the best part?" he was asked.

"Air conditioning for me," he answered.

The hope here s that this program will become a model for other communities looking to help get homeless people off the street and onto better lives.